Archives for category: National Trends

CT Entrepreneur Awards Honorable Mention

Less than one year since its launch in June 2017, Verge Arts Group has been recognized for outstanding performance and lasting contribution to the state of Connecticut in the category of Entrepreneur of the Year, Main Street. The ceremony took place April 20, 2018 at Gateway Community College in New Haven, CT.  The award organizers are an independent body; nominations were reviewed by a national panel of entrepreneurs.

To learn more about how businesses across the country operate in this award category, you can download city/metro area, state and national reports from the Kaufman Index of Main Street Entrepreneurship.

In deep gratitude for the opportunity to serve an ecosystem of such outstanding innovators,

Elinor

 

Upcoming Workshops

July 11Communicating Value with Red Rock Branding, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

July 25,  Agile for Solopreneurs & Collaborators, District NHV

July 31,  Agile for Solopreneurs & Collaborators, Makery Coworking

Sept 12Communicating Value with Red Rock Branding, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

Sept 20,  Agile for Solopreneurs & Collaborators, Stamford Innovation Week

Nov 14Communicating Value with Red Rock Branding, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

 

 

 

This was a Talkback I prepared for Lisette Sutherland, who could not attend Agile Bill Kreb’s 3D Webinar aired September 18, 2013.  Video at: http://www.agiledimensions.com/blog/video.  Get in touch with me if you’d like a TalkBack prepared for your online event! – ES

wave surger

Speaker Tom Wessel – Davisbase Consulting http://www.davisbase.com/

Interactive Features: Spatial Environment.  Moderator gave lots of voice inflection, made listening engaging. Brought in other senses: made the sound of hands rubbing together, at the questions coming in.  This was a nice moment!

Tom Wessell is founder of Southern Fried Agile Conference…http://southernfriedagile.com/ Regional flavors of Agile can complement and strengthen each other.   Enjoy the chicken, celebrate our thought leaders.  Attendance has gone from 75 to north of 300.  Five different tracks total 20 sessions.  5 PDUs  are like PMP crack!  We do it on a Friday – this year it’s October 18, 2013.  Take the day off and hang out with geeks and freaks and have a good time.

Virtual world graphics used to express metaphors for Agile:

Surfing

It’s a pure sport – a simplistic framework in which you have just a few elements to work with and you must navigate a very complex system.  Execute on the wave, you have to adapt to the motions of that wave.  That’s Agile, applying simple tools to an ever-changing environment.  Otherwise, you end up in the drink!

Pile of Stones

The stones relate to release planning.  There’s a sequential flow of fulfilling requirements that have to be met by a specific date.  Iterations are fixed bucket sizes, requirements are different sized stones.  We arrange them into buckets based on needs of organizations.  Sustainable pace – small pebbles fill in the empty space around big rocks to even the flow.  Takes negotiation between teams and product owner.  There is a logical order to what takes place.

Fossil of Dinosaur Bones

Agile is more than software development and teams.  We as an organization need to evolve and adapt.  Challenges rise as you move up the food chain, it takes more energy to break down the silos and move toward an agile enterprise.  If you do not evolve to be competitive, you will end up extinct.  We are knowledge workers so learning is the bulk of what we do.  If you’re not upgrading skills every two years or so you’re probably falling behind.

Seed

Seeds sprouting in different stages relate to a paradigm shift we are experiencing from command and control structures to allowing for emergent design based on intrinsic strengths.  Project managers have many chances to grow in their development and understanding.  Agile is not a fad.  This is something that has value.  It is growing strong.

Watchmaking versus the Weather

Complicated system versus a complex system.  In the systems we work in, there is too much variability to mindlessly follow a fixed set of plans.  We must inspect and adapt and use whatever we’re learning.  Incorporate a replanning perspective.

Trends are Emerging Patterns.  Here are some:

Pairing a PM with an SM – team focused paired with externally focused.  Scrum Master job is full time, external requirements like compliance takes research and time that a partner can support, esp in a regulated environment.  PM will help navigate that.  Plus this helps agile transitions at enterprise scale by giving a legitimate role for the PM.  SM takes certain skills, empathetic/nanny/psychologist/motivator…not all PMs can make that transition.

SAFe structure -you’re addressing the things that we want to spend money on that fit into a business strategy – end to end system, whole organism – structure will help us evolve

Soft is the new hard.  People skills matter incredibly much.  We are imperfect creatures and hard to work with.  Servant leaders ask: how do I take this group of talented individuals and get them moving in a common direction and becoming high performing?  Then how do we take that to the next level, to the whole organization?

Focus on communication/negotiation/mutual respect – different parts of the organism flexibly say “sure – we’ll reconsider what we were going to do in light of what we are learning about how to make happy customers”  This can be internal or external…making the product owners happy is great.  Barbara Fredrickson’s books tell us that three to one positive to stressful events keep your brain operating at peak efficiency.  http://www.amazon.com/Love-2-0-Supreme-Emotion-Everything/dp/1594630992/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379555688&sr=8-1&keywords=Barbara+Fredrickson

Chief product owner with sub product owners   Complex systems have multiple subsystems.  The voice of the customer includes competing needs and priorities.

Managing your personal WIP so you’re more productive and less stressed.  Our work in progress as thought workers isn’t visible, then at the end of the day we wonder why we’re so tired…what are all the things that are work in progress – make them visible so you can visualize them and understand why you’re so tired. Limit our WIP because we think we want as much work going on at once as possible, but we as humans are not as good at multitasking as we think. Chunking and conquering can be applied to anything in life, that’s what’s great about Agile principles, not just software

Goldilocks Approach to Process: focus on “what is the right level of process to support the flow through the system?”  Not too much, not too little, has to be just right to avoid disconnect without overcommunicating.  This is sophisticated stuff – Agile is evolving, and so are organizations.

unfinished prayerpurple240w

On the face of it, running a company with no human bosses sounds like an implausible fantasy or a short-lived experiment. For more than two decades, Doug Kirkpatrick, formerly of The Morning Star Company in Sacramento, California, has been arguing otherwise, stating the case for self-management as a viable alternative to the traditional, hierarchical organization.

Even for creative minds, this can be somewhat hard to visualize. The Industrial Revolution and its legacy of Taylorism have left us with the prevailing notion that organizations are shaped like pyramids, and that structure is set in stone. However, visionaries across many sectors are networking to amend this paradigm.

First, a few stats. Morning Star is the largest tomato processing operation in the world.  It transacts over $700 million per year and employs over 2,400 people (400 year-round). Its products, primarily industrial tomato paste and diced tomatoes, are ingredients in ketchup, taco sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, steak sauce and a myriad of other products. Virtually every American has eaten Morning Star product. It also exports globally. It is a highly successful company. And it has no human bosses.

This growth has come about steadily since founder Chris Rufer purchased land for his newly-conceived Morning Star facility in the late 1980s. He had an interesting concept ready to incubate on his initial 500+ acres of dirt near the town of Los Banos, California.  He had acquired a great deal of business intelligence and was ready to apply it to the new start-up.

Doug, who started off as Morning Star Packing’s first financial controller, had worked with Chris before running another manufacturing company. As he tells it, “I’d put a stack of checks on his desk to sign, and Chris began asking all sorts of questions: ‘Is my judgment really required here?  Don’t these checks represent legal liabilities which simply must be taken care of, no ifs, ands or buts?  What value am I really adding to this process?’”

Chris’ takeaway was that management time and attention often appeared to contribute zero to the bottom line. The conclusion had dawned that hierarchical management might be an unnecessary cost.

In his new leadership role, the founder posed a whole new set of questions as his team brainstormed in a temporary trailer pitched on Morning Star’s construction site.  Assuming management is too costly to afford, how can we maintain ourselves as a company? Could a set of common principles, instead of managers, serve to guide us in day-to-day decision-making?

Two principles in particular, clicked together side-by-side, seemed to create their own internal logic and establish a commonly-understood basis for maintaining proper oversight and equilibrium in all of the company’s operations.  1. People should not use force or coercion against other people or their property.  2.  People should keep the commitments they make to others.

One of the time-tested mechanisms the company has used over the years to help people make clean agreements and stick to these principles is the Colleague Letter of Understanding, or “CLOU” (as in helping to solve a mystery!). Individuals draft CLOUs in order to come to shared understandings about their “portfolio of roles” within the company.  “Every individual in the company is treated as a professional,” Doug emphashizes.  “And everyone is allowed to learn new skills so that they can take on new roles. Job descriptions are only a starting point. They can always be negotiated.”

Decisions of all kinds, including capital investments, vendors and equipment maintenance belong to identified decision-makers, who agree to communicate and collaborate with relevant stakeholders. Morning Star wants to help individuals maintain their ability to get things done without going through layers of management or having to make a case up the chain of command.

“This sounds great, especially to someone who grew up in the sixties,“ says Debra Cash, a Boston-based organizational consultant.  “But what about things like regulatory compliance?”

According to Doug, those issues, while real, haven’t been daunting enough to compromise the company‘s self-managed stance.  “If we need to have 35 names on the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) certificate because of the principle of equivalency, that everyone is equally responsible for occupational safety, then we list 35 names on the certificate.  We want to be compliant, and we strive to fulfill all of our corporate and fiduciary responsibilities.”

However, it is also true that for Morning Star, “the terms ‘blue collar’ and ‘white collar’ have absolutely no meaning. We’ve paid serious legal fees to defend our self-management philosophy. Overall, self management works for us, as it can work for others. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Doug Kirkpatrick is now traveling worldwide and speaking on behalf of this extraordinary company, its story and self management principles. June will see him jetting off to Copenhagen, London and Denver to attempt to satisfy a recent explosion of interest.

Meanwhile, Inc.com just named Morning Star among the Top 25 Audacious Companies.  When asked if the label applies, Doug responds in characteristically down-to-earth fashion. “Now I want a dictionary to look up the word, but certainly, if it means being bold and innovative, then I wouldn’t contest that description.”

What’s changed in the environment that leads people to be more curious right now?  Doug cites three factors: global competition, the availability of live, liquid data and the lighting speed at which business must move to keep pace.

What advice would Doug give to start-ups in 2013?  “To the up-and-coming entrepreneurs, I would pose this invitation. Recognize the opportunity in your hands to start from scratch building a governance structure. Without explicitly considering the question while you’re still a blank slate, there’s a tendency to default to the pyramid.  There are alternatives. And from what we‘ve seen, there is no set of business circumstances, no industry which presents an inherent barrier to the viability of self-management as an operating structure.“

Of course, even among alternatives, there are alternatives. Dynamic Governance, AKA Sociocracy, is one formalized system catching on in the English speaking business world via the work of John Buck, who brought it from the Netherlands (see http://www.socionet.us). In selecting the right level of openness versus formality to suit a particular enterprise, Dan Mezick, author of The Culture Game, advises, “Make sure you ask the right question. Are you working for the structure, or is the structure working for you?”

Artists are thinking along parallel lines. Debbie Hesse, Program Coordinator at Connecticut’s Greater New Haven Arts Council, is interested in these alternative organizational structures. The Council’s Visual Artists Advisory Group discussed the topic Friday, May 17 at a newly expanded co-workspace on New Haven’s thriving Ninth Square, a state-designated hub of innovation (www.grovenewhaven.com).

Artist Judy Rosenthal, known mostly for her ethnographic photography documenting cultural identity in places like Bali, created the body of paintings like the one above while thinking about what is common to all human systems. In her view, “Every individual entering a group does best asking: ‘What am I bringing to this circle?  What can I contribute?’”

Among the best places to step into a circle of professionals from many sectors who espouse self-management principles is the annual Symposium sponsored by the Morning Star Self-Management Institute. This year’s symposium took place on Sunday, June 2nd through Tuesday, June 4th in Sacramento, California, and featured participants from across the United States, Russia, China, Brazil, Australia and Canada. Information about the symposium can be found at http://self-managementinstitute.org/symposia/.

This year’s speakers focused on the networked organization as a source of discovery and innovation. Gabe Fasolino facilitated a half-day Open Space retreat for practitioners to explore how such insights apply to their respective leadership and organizational plans.

Since 2008, Morning Star has maintained a community of practice known as the Self-Management Institute. Its mission is to develop superior principles and systems of organizing people, and to promulgate those principles and systems in the minds of client colleagues.

Documents and data from the Morning Star Self-Management Institute are available to artists who wish to explore these ideas further.  One goal is to develop an art exhibition delving into alternative organizational structures impacting today’s workplace.  Interested artists may contact E. Slomba at artsinterstices@gmail.com and review source materials at http://self-managementinstitute.org/about-us/ .

MANY THANKS to Doug Kirkpatrick for the generous interview he gave by phone on May 8, 2013 from his home base in Sacramento, California.

MPT-FBThe Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston is one of the nation’s premiere organizations to formally build an alliance between the arts and start-up worlds.

The schedule for their upcoming MPT workshop series – now in its second year – has just been announced!

The Musician’s Professional Toolbox (MPT) empowers musicians of all genres with the entrepreneurial skills they need to master the business challenges of being an artist. This program takes career musicians (limited to 35 participants) through a series of engaging workshops that further their capacity to think and operate like creative entrepreneurs. Now in its second year, the Musician’s Professional Toolbox program includes 10+ workshops over 9 weeks, presented by 8 outstanding instructors, each a renowned expert in their field. Musicians will leave the program with a business/marketing plan, improved materials, sharp insights into financial management and fundraising, tips and tools of the trade, the support of fellow musicians, and new industry contacts.

Workshops include “Musican as Entrepreneur,”  “Social Media Marketing,” “Grantwriting & Fundraising,” “Successful Contract Negotiation,” and more.  Partial scholarships and payment plans are available.  The contact for this program is D’Lynne Plummer, Director of Professional Development.

More information is available at

www.artsandbusinesscouncil.org

Today for Monday/Collaborate, Artbux interviews Stefanie Lynx Weber, an action-based artist based in Pittsfield, MA who specializes in dance, movement and performance.

hooping_1

Stefanie is presently developing with collaborating artist Monika Pizzichemi, They Dance For Rain which is an on-going Tap Dance (and Hoop Dance) project in Nairobi, Kenya. Exhibitions of photo work from the project (see above) are slated for various Tap Festivals through the US.

We spoke about an article The Washington Post published in August 2012 claiming that dance is the most successful category on Kickstarter.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/kickstarter-for-dance-choreographers-could-be-a-gold-mine/2012/08/23/62329816-ea6c-11e1-a80b-9f898562d010_story.html

AB: What experience do you have using Kickstarter for dance?

SLW: I have used Kickstarter for dance projects twice. The first campaign was to complete a 50-minute live performance piece, habitat (de)fragmentation, and be able to pay the performers for the many hours of rehearsal time needed in order to make something ready for a premiere. I also needed some funding for costumes, props, and video editing. I made it a little beyond my goal of about $2000 with much help from my community and many hours plugging away at it. The second time I used Kickstarter was for bringing that same piece eight months later to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I needed to cover expenses of travel, hotels, and performance fees. I reached that goal as well.

I also did two more crowd-funding campaigns on another site, Indiegogo, for my dance project They Dance For Rain in Nairobi, Kenya. (For more info on this and other current projects, please visit Stefanie’s blog: http://fertileuniverse.com/about )

AB: What skills do dance artists practice all the time that might make them more successful than others in this space..?

SLW: There are three things that come to mind. One is that dance artists are often not strangers to taking risks. Launching an online campaign to raise money for your vision as an artist is risky business. To those of us used to falling on the floor and getting back up it becomes just another necessary part of the process.

The next thing that comes to mind is that dancers are used to grinding away at something till it flows. Practicing something over and over. Finding what is working and what is not. Crowd-funding can be a grueling and time-consuming process. Again, we are used to trying again and again to get something just right. And that is what you have to do with something like Kickstarter. You have to show up everyday and be willing to try another way to reach that next person.

Most importantly, many dance artists have to be able to really connect and reach others in order to make their work.  If you have other performers in your work, you find out quickly what makes this a different situation from other art forms. Paint does not talk back or have children to feed or need health insurance. Clay is not injured and then not available for 2 weeks or more. I think that dance artists, especially individually-based ones, develop an empathy, understanding and deep view into the human condition make it easier to reach out to others.  This makes it more likely that you would even try something like Kickstarter because you have to really appeal to your audience for their support.

nairobi

You have to create an audience, not only a dance. You have to understand that most people funding you through Kickstarter are going to be people you know, or people they know, and so being connected to them as humans and not just a profile on a screen or a hand with money is invaluable. Most of the people that donated to my campaigns were people who not only believed in my ability to do the work, but worked hard for their living also and saw themselves as becoming a part of the creative process.

Generally speaking, dance artists already have the skills needed to bring people together to make something unique happen.

AB: Does word that dance kicks butt on Kickstarter seem like “news” to you? Why or why not?

SLW: I have not done a lot searching around on Kickstarter so I was not aware of what is working and what is not. I did see a lot of videos, movies, and film-type campaigns being featured often when I was using Kickstarter. I am not surprised at all that individual dance artists (especially), companies and organizations would use a source like this and be successful at it.

Dance is not generally funded broadly and dance artists often use other people to make their art. People need to be paid for their time, skill and energy.  And today’s dance artists are often on the edge, coming up with new perspectives and ways to say something that needs to said. Much of this goes over the heads of larger funding sources or doesn’t fit into their antiquated and limiting funding structures.  Also, dance artists often don’t want or have the ability to wait for long grant cycles, gain “permission” to carry on, or cater their work to a theme or criteria that does not really support their unique or complex process and vision.

Platforms like Kickstarter give more power and visibility to the many kinds of dance-making processes that exist. Dance art is cutting edge because it always involves bodies. Bodies are and always have been radical forms of expression. It’s nice to hear that individual dance artists (especially) are getting what they need from this community-based source because they certainly are not getting it from any corporate, government or nationally structured funding source. Maybe Kickstarter is helping to make the value of this need in our culture more visible.

AB: What message would you like people to take away from the article?

SLW: Sources like Kickstarter (and Indiegogo, etc) are making it possible for dance artists to bypass the worn out roads to funding their valuable and unique visions by providing a concise template and well-organized platform for reaching out and finding financial support. Dance artists therefore have more of an opportunity to successfully blaze their own trails. This is not a walk in the park, it is hard work! Most dance artists who are actively and consistently putting work out are used to that and will step up to the plate.

MORE BIO ON STEFANIE:

Stefanie Weber has worked with many organizations: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Opera Company, Simon’s Rock, Williams College, Berkshire Community College, Terpsichore Dance Studio, Lenox Community Center, Hudsons’ Operation Unite, East Harlem Union Settlement Association,  Somerville’s ArtBeat, and Cambridge River Festival; as an artist, educator, performer, or choreographer.  Presently she is on faculty with Community Access to the Arts, Berkshire Dance Theater, and Kinesphere Movement Arts Studio.

Stefanie is the founder and artistic director of the Creatures Of Habitat Physical Poetry Public Performance Project and Pittsfield City Hoopla. She is a performer and co-director of the performance ensemble Silver Swimmers (USA) , was in the Commonwealth Tap Collective based in Boston and is a performer with Nutshell Playhouse. A dancer with Caryn Heilman’s LiquidBody Dance for six years, Stefanie immersed herself in the the work of movement pioneer Emily Conrad. She collaborates frequently with various local and international artists, musicians and community development enthusiasts. Her work and development has been supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Stefanie is a certified Gyrotonic instructor, former Americorps Member, graduate of UMASS Amherst with a degree in Environmental Sciences (focus on toxicology), and has taken artistic residency with The Storefront Artist Project (02-06) and Dana Bixby Architecture (07).  She is a former board member of Topia Arts Center in Adams, MA.

In Spring of 2007, Stefanie was recognized as a “Young Woman Moving the Berkshires Forward” by the Berkshire Eagle newspaper and awarded certificate as an asset to the community by State Senator Benjamin Downing.

Joy Wulke is an environmental artist who founded Projects for a New Millennium, www.projects2K.org.

P2K

 

The organization is about “creating collaborative events that foster the fusing of art and science as a means of discovery and appreciation of the natural world.”

Wulke’s work is now part of the nightscape of the train station in Stamford, Connecticut.  According to The New York Times, “The new look, different from one second to the next, was achieved for only $155,000 — less than the cost of a paint job.”

The project, funded  with state money awarded on a competitive basis, demonstrates a national trend toward “creative placemaking,” an attempt to make places more vibrant through artist-led projects.  The winning team, led by Norwalk-based painter and sculptor Sandy Garnett, included Jamie Burnett and Steve Hamelin as lighting specialists and advisers.  It was Jamie who coined the term “light wrangler,” which Wulke defines as an artist who responds to the character of light as a partner in creation.

Read more at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/nyregion/at-night-in-stamford-drab-train-station-dazzles.html?_r=0

Do you frequent the Hartford Public Library? If so, share your story TODAY on the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/USIMLS

Hartford

The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community. The award as finalist, given to only 33 institutions nationally, celebrates libraries and museums that make a difference for individuals, families and communities.  I have relied on Hartford Public Library’s extensive research section supporting grantseekers, and hope to see the institution shine on this national platform.

Happily for Connecticut, it is not alone!  The Wadsworth Atheneum is also a finalist for the 2013 National Medal.

More information on both institutions can be found at:

www.hplct.org

and

http://www.wadsworthatheneum.org

Susan Hildreth, director of the IMLS,“this year’s finalists exemplify the many wonderful ways museums and libraries can respond to the needs and wants of the communities they serve.”  The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.  To learn more, please see www.imls.gov .

Kicking off a series of two-part posts by pairing some of my thoughts about working with artists and a client’s notes about our work together. Look for similar posts here at Artbux every other Monday, and please submit your ideas for paired perspectives on collaboration. – Elinor Slomba, CSM

DSCN5822

CONSULTANT’S PERSPECTIVE: In my administrative career – which began in 1994 – I have chosen to work alongside highly creative people. The ongoing effort to connect their great ideas with the resources needed to help actualize them has been the gist of my professional life so far. Mostly I have done this through the written word.

I LOVE artists! I love their vulnerability and sensitivity, and the strength of their convictions. I love how they see things others don’t. And so, in my case, as Kahlil Gibran says eloquently and with more than a grain of truth, “Work is love made visible.”

When you listen for the spaces between words and help someone who’s struggling with the seed of a new idea capture a coherent structure for his/her thoughts, it’s like having a superpower. So many amazing individuals are contributing their time and talent and intelligence – their very substance – to collective vitality right now…and running experiments using models proven viable in specific fields. I am proud to function as “glue” in the arts world and across sectors among them.

Apple

I appreciate the trust it takes to put your ideas into someone else’s hands and ask for help giving them form and expression. Whether or not it’s true what Daniel Pink says about connectors and synthesizers having a special place in civilization these days, and I like to think it is, helping artists be more successful is a permanently cool gig.

Meanwhile, jumps and twirls. Here’s to every day being different, with some more different than others. This hedge against conformity – respect for difference and celebration of meaning among differences whether stark or sublimely subtle – is the main, most substantive thing artists are expert at conjuring in our midst. It is extremely valuable to business. At this point in history, artists are selling what everyone else desperately needs.

DSCN5444

ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE: Contributed by Helen N. Hanson

Until recently I had never experienced a truly inspirational collaboration. I took the opportunity to collaborate with Elinor Slomba.

Elinor is a storycraft consultant, and she is excellent at her job. Due to illness I have had to transfer from the medium of Acting to the medium of Collage. Same artist, different disciplines, different form of interpretation.

When I first started working with Elinor, I was a bit all over the place, scattered, and not quite sure how to move forward.

We have now worked together for several months and I am quite clear on the direction of my work, the discipline it requires to produce it, and the structuring of my time so that I work as an artist, I tend to my health, I practice meditation, and I practice Collage. Of course all at the same time, there is my family, our home, our pets, our bills, my dear and wonderful friends near and far. LIFE in big capital letters!

Elinor has introduced ideas that would not have occurred to me, she speaks better than I do, she represents me more articulately than I do and she listens well. She has consistently come up with innovative and unusual combinations that prove to be an excellent avenue of getting work out there.

We check in once a week; and in that meeting, we accomplish quite a lot of very fine work. it has been very interesting to listen to her knowledge of social media and her take on what’s a good combination of social media to drive the customer that is already looking for my work. I have learned the importance of navigating and always staying on task on the World Wide Web.

It took a bit of time to find my online limits.  It was a valuable lesson to learn. While I may have a ton of energy, my body, especially now when I am in a healing crisis, may need nothing more then rest and food/ or sleep.

It is been a true pleasure having Elinor as my storycraft consultant.  If you are an entrepreneur, an artist, a dancer, a blogger, a poet…etc., and want to take what you say and perhaps haven’t said clearly and put it out into the worldwide marketplace for thought and/or goods exchange, Elinor Slomba can assist you.

Visionquest

Cross-posted on Helen Hanson’s blog  – nontoxicspiritart.wordpress.com

 

To illustrate findings from the recently released Americans for the Arts study Arts & Economic Prosperity in the State of Connecticut IV: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations and Their Audiences, Randy Cohen told a measurable version of a memorable tale.   “It was two weeks until Date Night,” his story began.  Then he took about 50 arts leaders gathered at the Palace Theater in Waterbury on December 7th through a path of decisionmaking that links cultural performances with a host of other categories of economic activity.

inside New Haven's Shubert Theater

inside New Haven’s Shubert Theater

First, by virtue of on-line ticket buying, the arts clearly tap skills from the technology sector in presenting and maintaining their websites.

Next, e-commerce interfaces with the banking industry.

Before Date Night, the gas tank might get filled up, benefitting a local convenience store.

On Date Night, before the show, a couple might go out to eat.  The chosen restaurant might feature local produce, benefitting area growers and the whole chain of entrepreneurs who bring food to the table.

Another ten bucks might go to a local parking garage.

At the theater, the couple may have a glass of wine, or a cup of tea.  Caterers benefit from this type of activity.  Local wines or teas might even be featured.

The theater building itself requires tradespeople in order to fulfill its function.  Plumbers, electricians and painters may be involved, as well as more specialized restorers and historic preservationists.

Ushers pass out programs, evidence that still others are being employed: designers, printers, paper/ink suppliers and deliverypeople.

Of course the show highlights the acting emsemble, its director and crew.  However, it is important to note that before the curtain ever rises, the arts organization presenting the performance is generating positive economic impact in its community.   How much, exactly?  Well, here are some conservative figures (all based on actual reported data, nothing projected) gathered from 337 arts organizations across Connecticut in 2010, using an input/output analysis model customized for local conditions and administered by a team from the School of Economics at Georgia Tech.

  • Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences spent a total of 653 million dollars.  Audience spending accounts for $198 million; the rest is spent by the organizations themselves.
  • Arts organizations supported 18,314 Full-Time Equivalent jobs in Connecticut.  Because of the high touch, hands on, face-to-face nature of the industry, these jobs are necessarily local, unshippable overseas.
  • Arts spending triggered $59 million in local and state government revenue.
  • 12% of arts attenders came from outside the state.  For 67% of those individuals, the reason for coming to Connecticut was specifically to attend a particular cultural event.
  • 33,379 volunteers contributed 1.1 million manhours, calcluated at a rate of $21.36/hr to represent a $24 million value.

Nationally, the nonprofit arts sector is a $135 billion industry and supports 4.1 million jobs.  $5 billion is invested annually, triggering $21 billion in government revenue.  That is a huge positive return on investment.

Who has bought into this methodology and its results?  National organizations including the Business Civic Leadership Center (U.S. Chamber of Commerce); the National Conference of State Legislators; National League of Cities; the United States Conference of Mayors; the International Association of Destination Marketing; and Grantmakers in the Arts all have their logos on this publication.  The study – conducted nationally and released in state-specific segments based on customized models for local data gathering – repeats every five years.

The bottom line is a strong message to those who govern states and municipalities in the U.S.   Funding for Date Night is no black hole.

The bonus for cities?…Workers in today’s knowledge economy are choosing to work where they live, and creativity ranks as one of the top five skills sought-after by today’s business leaders.  This means that only cool places attract professional people, and when it comes to overall economic health, it’s the most creative, culturally vibrant communities that can deliver the goods.

“A guy asked me once on a consulting job what I knew about software development.  I told him, I don’t know anything about software development.  But I do know how you should do it.”  Meet Lee Devin, author of Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work.  This first book, co-authored with Robert D. Austin of Harvard Business School, is regarded as something of a classic in entrepreneurial circles, bringing concepts from theater – “ensemble,” “improvisation,” and “rehearsal” – into the parlance of software developers.

Lately, Lee Devin’s name comes up every time someone in the know learns of my interest in strengthening natural alliances between the arts and start-up worlds.  We met at Agile Games 2012 – a conference dedicated to bringing the spirit of play into the workplace to boost productivity – and had a chance recently to speak about his new book, The Soul of Design, published by Stanford University Press.   Here are some sample pages:

http://www.sup.org/pages.cgi?isbn=0804757208;item=Excerpt_from_Part_One_pages;page=1

SLOMBA: The Soul of Design does not simply present ideas for consideration, it presents a whole vocabulary.

DEVIN: Plot…coherence…resonance…these are things that make a work of art or a product special or not special.  The individual elements are hard to define, but we recognize and understand their sum total when it all works. “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” In this book we’re looking at that “what I like.”

SLOMBA:  I’m going to quote from the introduction. “A maker plots a structure to achieve coherence.  Coherence presupposes a set of interactions that generate resonance.  We call the results non-ordinary.”

DEVIN: Yup.

SLOMBA: What are some relevant changes you’ve seen in the software business since Artful Making was published in 2003?

DEVIN: Certainly in the last few years a change has taken place in the perception of what constitutes a cockamamie idea.  There is a new openness.  Responses to Agile and more personal and aesthetic modes of thinking about work have a much more positive entry into the conversation than they used to.  Back when I started it was pretty hard to get the ideas on the table.  I don’t mean to suggest the giant corporation is feverishly making room for this stuff or anything like that, but it does feel like the basic argument – that creative work must be approached in an artful way, a way that factors in human desires and tendencies and allows for an emergent outcome, not a strictly industrial way, a way that decides on an outcome first – has been made and accepted.  The difficulties lie in the way people are implementing the new, more collaborative approaches, more in the realms of logistics and space, not people’s attitudes.

SLOMBA:  How does your idea of “specialness” differ from the notion of industrial quality, plain and simple?

DEVIN:  Homo Aestheticus – I got the idea about that from Ellen Dissanayake, an Ethnologist.  One of major jumps we human beings made in evolutionary development was to decorate, to stripe some white clay down our noses, or to put a bison up on the cave wall: to make special.  To become individual. This impulse is very powerful.  I’m interested in the fact that it points to other skills and tendencies among the people who do it.  When a group of humans are aesthetically aware, continually looking to improve their surroundings, it signifies a deeper thing.  Homo Aestheticus, because s/he has become an individual, is a much more adaptable creature.

SLOMBA: Do you think choosing a special object can be a creative act?

DEVIN: Absolutely.  As an arts market gets established, the citizenry gets divided between makers and partakers.  And yet, as Susanne Langer points out, the act of personal response to an art work is just as creative.  You notice an object that speaks to you and you have an instant of recognition.  This instant doesn’t have a duration; it’s an event.  The “Oh, wow.”  You’ve made a huge choice in that response and the question then is not whether to follow up on that choice, but how.  We look at things, and the process becomes one that Aristotle calls puzzling out the form.   This kind of appreciation directly relates to making.  The aesthetic experience of appreciating an art form differs only in degree from the pleasure of making an art form.  Mind you, the degree is huge.

SLOMBA: Can you talk about originality?

DEVIN:  If a thing is completely new, it almost always appears formless.  We can’t perceive anything we don’t have a category for.  We need some similar experience for comparison, or we just don’t get it.  Take a Frenchman to a baseball game, and he’ll just wonder.  Like Americans at cricket.  People ask the wrong questions, because they don’t know the right ones.  They become baffled.

My generation lived through Samuel Beckett.  Waiting for Godot is what goes on while you’re waiting for the unspecified, emergent outcome.  People said at first, “This isn’t a play.  This doesn’t have any shape or form.  It’s just gaga.”  As long as people put their attention on who or what is Godot that remained the case, because the answer to that question has no relevance.  What’s going on on stage is this: people wait.  It’s a bleak life, they don’t know what’s going on; they have no short-term memory, much like your humble correspondent.  But when actors got up on stage to work the thing out, to puzzle out the form, they immediately got what Beckett wrote.  It was pretty hard not to get.

On the flip side, no artist wants to do something that somebody else already did.  We want to do something that we do now.  Every set of circumstances is unique in time.  The solution is unique, but there has to be a familiar context for it.

SLOMBA:  In your consulting work you’ve been getting Agile teams to be more creative and artistic; how about an arts group going Agile?

DEVIN: The artists to whom I’ve shown the Agile Manifesto simply look at me and say, “Duh.” “But that’s just common sense.” The principles of coherence and relevance absolutely apply to any object, process or idea.  Coherent things, coherent processes and ensembles are going to be more attractive and better at fulfilling their functions, regardless of sector.  Aesthetic regard, concern for coherence, is the ultimate in total quality control.

SLOMBA: What do you see down the line?

DEVIN: People are starting to realize you don’t get anywhere if you just pick bad items off the line and scold the guy who made them. Read Deming. Go further upstream and find the conditions that led to the errors in the first place.   One of the first things dramaturgs look for when we read scripts is the set of given circumstances.  Hamlet, in the throne room, in the second scene of Shakespeare’s play, is deeply pissed off, totally bummed.  If you’re an actor or trying to help an actor, you ask: what does Hamlet want?  What’s he trying to get? What’s he trying to get away from?  Why did he come into this room? And so on and on.

Dramaturgy is a wonderful way to unpack complicated objects and processes.  Your boss suddenly loses it…you want to look at that dramaturgically and ask: what are the things that this is the response to?  Not causes, given circumstances.

Any process that has room in it for asking these kinds of questions is going to be helpful these days, because things are very complicated.  Scrum has room.  The tricky thing is that a lot of people don’t know how to ask relevant questions, how to frame what they need to know, what they’re looking for.

The Soul of Design suggests starting your inquiry with the final cause, the purpose for which the thing is made.  For any art object, or any non-ordinary product, the purpose of the thing is to be perfect of its kind.  Out in the world, the secondary purpose is to please people who are going to pay you for it.  First purpose is prime.

***

Lee Devin’s books can be purchased on Amazon in print form or for Kindle.  Here are the links – ENJOY!

http://www.amazon.com/Artful-Making-Managers-About-Artists/dp/0130086959

http://www.amazon.com/The-Soul-Design-Harnessing-Extraordinary/dp/0804757208

%d bloggers like this: